National Irrigators Council CEO, Steve Whan says it should be crystal clear that people advocating a “pause” or “hold” on the Basin Plan, by voting down amendments in the Senate next week, are actually advocating ‘stop’ and no Plan.

Steve Whan said “if the Senate votes down the amendments implementing the 605GL worth of projects to improve the supply of water to the environment then a Basin Plan, involving all Basin states, is dead. There is no second chance.

“These 36 projects are all about delivering water more effectively to the environment – without them the Basin Plan cannot meet its environmental goals.

“They include infrastructure to deliver water to floodplains and wetlands in South Australia, Victoria and NSW; along with projects to relax the natural constraints stopping the delivery of higher flows and others including reconfiguration of Menindee Lakes. All projects were proposed by Basin States and approved by the Ministerial Council.

“It needs to be clear that these projects present no risk to the environmental targets in the Plan, that’s because in 2024 there is a full reconciliation. If the projects don’t meet their objectives the equivalent difference in water has to be recovered for the environment.

“Some of these projects have already been constructed, but we acknowledge there is a lot of work to do on many. Australia needs to encourage innovation in achieving environmental outcomes and we strongly advocate an adaptive approach which engages all interested parties in ensuring projects are successful.

“The Basin Plan has already secured 77% of the water it originally targeted for the environment. It is still possible to implement the Plan on time and in full but that means Parliament must stick to the agreements it made in 2012.

“Irrigators signed up in good faith to the plan; they have certainly never liked all aspects of the Basin Plan, but recognise that as part of the democratic process the sensible majority of our members of parliament voted for the Plan. Our members have worked hard for the last 6 years doing our bit to try to make it work – we would also like to be able to pick and choose the bits we like and don’t like, but we recognise that’s not how implementing a negotiated compromise works.

“We would hope that next week in the parliament we will see that sensible majority again representing the majority of Australians who want a Basin Plan that gives us healthy rivers along with healthy regional communities which have the capacity to continue to grow the food we eat and the fibre we wear.”

Media Contact: Steve Whan 0429 780 883
Thursday 3 May 2018

(Attached: response to some of this week’s dodgy claims) 

A few facts on dodgy claims:

Claim – Environmental water only held “on paper”

  • The Environmental Water Holder owns 2106GL of water – 77% of the 2750GL target. They have already used that water for more than 750 environmental watering events since 2012-13.
  • Held environmental water is a legal entitlement with exactly the same status as irrigation water.

Claim – The amendment takes water from the environment

  • The 605GL has not been recovered. It would be ridiculous to recover the water while at the same time constructing projects which might see it given back. The process outlined in the plan gives certainty for the environment via a reconciliation in 2024

Claim – Return Flows mean zero water has been recovered

  • Completely false – the return flows argument only applies to a very small portion of water recovered.

Claim – we should pause because the plan may be illegal

  • The plan is in force in law. There is no plan B and we should focus on making it work not trying start again.